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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Operas I'd Really Like To See: Redux

As a quick break from all the reviews and opera guides that tend to make up the backbone of this blog, I thought that I'd write a quick piece on operas I've never been able to see in the theater.
A near miss: William Tell


A lot of these "misses" have been due to illness, bad luck, or simply bad timing. Some of them are operas that have never "caught on" in North America--or Europe for that matter. So here's a stack of operas I've never seen "live" in the theater.

(And by the way, this is taking the place of the "wish list" posts of operas I really want the Met to think about doing. Enjoy.)

1) Arabella
I missed my chance the last time the Met did this opera, with Kiri te Kanawa in the title role and Christian Thielemann conducting. (Actually, the 2008 Renée Fleming DVD is playing as I write this and gave me the idea for the piece.) This is one of the five Strauss operas I haven't seen live. The others are Guntram, Feuersnot, Die Schweigsame Frau, and Friedenstag.

2) Guillaume Tell/Gugliemo Tell
Rossini's tale of rebellion in Switzerland is an unlikely opera to see live anytime soon. The role of Arnold is difficult to cast and the work is nearly as long as Die Meistersinger. But the music is gorgeous, and we ain't just talking about the famous overture. And just to make things more interesting, I'd like to see it in the original French.

3) Mathis der Maler
This major opera by Paul Hindemith was produced at the New York City Opera in 1995--but I wasn't living in New York that year (or working in this industry yet.) Last night, I picked up the EMI recording so there'll be something more about this work in the next couple of weeks. Mathis retells the story of German painter Matthais Grünewald, creator of the Isenheim Altarpiece. Like Meistersinger and Hans Pfitzner's lesser-known work Palestrina, Hindemith's opera is deeply concerned with the connection between music and medieval German art.


4) Béatrice et Bénédict
Berlioz' Shakespearean comedy (based on Much Ado About Nothing) focuses on the bickering lovers that remain the most popular characters from that opera. As James Levine is something of a Berlioz aficionado, bringing us La Damnation de Faust, Benvenuto Cellini and Les Troyens in recent years, it's about time for B et B to take the stage.

5) The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya
I missed the bus on an opportunity to see this work when it was presented by the Mariinsky Theater in New York a few years ago. The so-called "Russian Parsifal" has gorgeous music from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the most Romantic of the "Mighty Handful": five composers who revolutionized music in 19th century Russia.

6) Prodaná nevěsta ("The Bartered Bride")
Bedrich Smetana's comedy is another opera that continues to elude. The Met's legendary run of performances ended on November 1, 1996, three weeks before I started at Citysearch and began my writing career. I think it's time for a comeback.


7) Die Wunder das Heliane
I fell in love with Korngold's dream-like opera back in grad school. Heliane requires bigger resources than Strauss' Die Frau Ohne Schatten. Like that opera, it has a confusing, pseudo-religious libretto where most of the characters lack names. But oh, that opening wash of harmonies and the glorious "Ich ging zu ihm," an aria recently recorded by La Fleming on her Homage collection....

8) Any Opera by Vincenzo Bellini: 
Beatrice di Tenda, La Sonnambula, I Capuletti e i Montecchi, Norma, I Puritani
I love the way Bellini writes for the voice, but I've never sat through one of his operas in the theater. At least I'm honest about it.

9) Maskarade:
I'm familiar with this high-speed operatic comedy by Danish composer Carl Nielsen due to an excellent Decca recording by Ulf Schirmer. But I'd love to see an ensemble cast tackle it in the theater. This will probably require a trip to Scandinavia.

10) All the Verdi operas I haven't seen yet:
For the record, the list is: ObertoUn Giorno di RegnoNabuccoI LombardiI Due FoscariGiovanna D'ArcoAlziraI MasnadieriIl CorsaroJerusalemLuisa MillerI Vespri Siciliani and Aroldo. 

I think the Met is due to revive Nabucco in the next few years, and I've been lucky to see Foscari and Vespri on old DVDs from La Scala. We'll get there, eventually.


Footage of Renée Fleming singing the title role in Arabella, with Julia Kleiter as Zdenko/Zdenka.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.